SHE CAME FROM A BROKEN HOME and she was related to me. I never knew her father because her mother divorced him before I was born. The only thing I heard as the reason for the divorce was the father was abusive. As far as I knew the mother made a new comforting home for her and her daughter. I remember when the daughter got remarried; though, I never knew she was married before. It turns out she had married a man who was abusive to her, locking her in a closet at times. All I knew was the relatives were all excited when she remarried a gentleman who they all liked. The fact he was devoted to his mother, the relatives took as a good sign of what type of husband he would be. I remember meeting him and being struck how odd it was that his face showed little emotion. Maybe it was nerves or fear on his part for meeting a room full of relatives, yet it was so strange to me that I could not get it out of my mind. Everything appeared to be fine; I heard relatives say the couple had a lovely house. Whenever I would see my relative and her husband, there was something he did that bugged me. Not all the time, but enough times for me to notice he would make his wife the brunt for one of his jokes. I did not find it funny, but she would simply chuckle and tell him to stop it. It never did. SOME YEARS LATER I HEARD MY relative was going to the same beauty shop as another relative. I do not have any proof but was told my relative was wearing heavy makeup to hide bruises on her face. This other relative would see her once or twice a month and noticed the amount of makeup she used on her face would change periodically. A couple of times during the wash and set of her hair, her makeup would get messed up and that is when my other relative would see the bruises. Of course, the question that came to everyone’s mind was whether the bruises were due to a medical reason or from physical abuse. I could not believe they were from abuse; only because I would have thought after what she went through as a child supposedly, she would recognize the behavior of an abuser and steer clear of such an individual. Granted I had no proof only secondhand information. I only wished she had the strength to take care of herself and seek out help if she needed it, like what the mother in this film festival winner had to do. THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERED TO Sandra, played by Clare Dunne (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Monged), was the safety of her daughters. After figuring out a way to provide for her daughters, she had to find a way to make it become reality. With Molly McCann (Sweetness in the Belly, Rosie) as Molly, newcomer Ruby Rose O’Hara as Emma, Ian Lloyd Anderson (Dublin Oldschool, Love/Hate-TV) as Gary and Harriet Walter (The Young Victoria, Sense and Sensibility) as Peggy; this Irish drama was filled with wide ranging emotional scenes. Sandra was such a believable character thanks to Clare’s stunning acting skills, that the daughters only accentuated the family unit where I totally believed everything I was seeing. The story was easy to follow but hard to watch at times. Despite the toughness there was a delicateness that came across thanks to the director’s skills. I never felt manipulated or tricked; there was a certain rawness that came across that really made this film stand out for me. As a side note, due to the Irish dialect there were a few times I had a hard time understanding what was being said. However, this was a minor distraction for me.
3 ½ stars
When it happens the mind has a hard time believing it is true. Knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, when one of them crosses to the other side the brain forms a hiccup. It could be something as trivial as checking one’s wallet or purse several times for a missing credit card and then on the 8th try the card is there. For me it was when I was at Yellowstone National Park and saw what actually looked like purple colored mountains, just like the lyric in the song that goes, “For purple mountain majesties.” I was standing on the peak of one mountain looking out and seeing a range of purple mountains as a low hanging, orange sun was piercing holes thru large billowing clouds like they were white pin cushions. The precise rays of sunlight formed little stars across the landscape. At first it did not look real to me; I just stood there and stared in disbelief. But there are other events that happen where a person has to take a step back to make sure what they are experiencing is actually real. Think about it, did you ever dream about something that later came true? Maybe what your ideal mate would look like or what your dream house would be? It can be a bit unsettling at first; however, I will say when it happens it brings a magical quality to it. The way this DVD showed up at my front door with no prior knowledge and its timing really made me experience an enchanting movie watching experience. WHEN Fiona, played by Jeni Courtney (Nothing Personal), went to live with her grandparents she discovered there was something extraordinary about her family members. This film festival winning dramatic fantasy was a special treat to watch because it was based on the same Irish folklore as the animated movie, “Song of the Sea.” I recently had reviewed it here. Having seen the animated picture first, when I started watching this one I could not believe I was viewing the live version of that fantasy tale. With a cast that included Eileen Coogan (My Left Foot, I Sell the Dead) as Tess and John Lynch (The Secret Garden, In the Name of the Father) as Tadhg, I thought everyone did a wonderful job in creating a mysterious and magical atmospheric story about life in a small fishing village in Ireland. The beautiful landscapes and camera shots only added more charm to the story. Speaking of the story, there were differences between the two movies; I found this story was gentler and sweeter in a way, still just as family friendly as the other one. Whether the timing was right or I was in the right frame of mind, I found this DVD drew me completely into its world where I felt I was experiencing a fantasy coming to life.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Once the heart loses a loved one it never fills up the same way. The empty space in the heart gets filled with memories like air in a balloon until it almost resembles its former shape. But as time goes by the area shrivels due to the memories fading. The heart never deflates completely; as recollections withdraw to the deeper recesses of the mind, it takes more effort to keep the heart aloft. Though it may not be felt right away, life does go on as the heart seeks out a new or different type of love to nourish and return it to a higher place of consciousness. I have experienced such loss (who hasn’t, right?) and understand we each treat loss in different ways. Inspired by a true story, the main character in this dramatic film had been secretly carrying her loss for 50 years. Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal, Ladies in Lavender) was stellar in the role of Philomena, the Irish woman who had her out of wedlock son taken away from her and given up for adoption. Steve Coogan (Ruby Sparks, Tropic Thunder) played investigative journalist Martin Sixsmith who would take and document Philomena’s journey to find out what happened to her son. This film festival winning movie used Martin’s book, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,” as a source. First and foremost let me start with the acting in this film. Judi was amazing in the role. It was a different type of character for her, where she gave the impression of being naive, but underneath had a solid core of strength. As for Steve, I was impressed by him taking on a cynical, smart aleck type of character who had a protective fondness for Philomena. Because of their chemistry and acting skills, they never let the script fall into a sentimental mushy state. I was surprised with the turn of events and I have to say it was hard not to become emotional. This was an adult story that captivated the audience to the point I was able to hear people’s emotions welling up. There is a good chance Judi and possibly Steve will get nominated for an Oscar, besides the director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity). None of us may ever experience what Philomena did, but each of us will certainly be able to relate to the love and loss she endured.
3 2/3 stars